Do you listen to the music when you dance?


Sounds like a weird question…I mean of course you listen.


You step on 1,2,3,5,6,7 don’t you…what else is there to worry about?


You know which tracks you like, and you know that they give you that extra energy, that extra verve and flow in your dancing, but do you know why?


What makes you love one tune, and feel indifferent to or actively dislike another?


It’s hard to imagine why or how our brain connects with what essentially is just a bunch of vibrations in the air that reach our eardrum. It’s not until it hits our brain that it’s transformed into a succession of different timbres and pitches organised to specific timings, and then invokes a powerful emotional response.


When you listen to music, many, many areas of your brain are involved. If it’s a song you know, the memory centres in the hippocampus fire up. If you’re moving to music, imagining yourself moving to music, or planning your movements to music, the pre-frontal cortex (our very human, logical, thinking part of the brain) is activated.


Your brain loves things to be predictable, so it works hard to figure out what’s coming next in a piece of music, based on several factors:


  • What has already come before in the same tune
  • What we remember will come next if the tune is familiar
  • What we expect will come next if the genre is familiar based on previous exposure to this style of music
  • Any additional information, such as a movement from our partner, or someone singing along.


When we aren’t familiar with a song, or are thinking very hard about what moves we want to do, or trying to do something different to normal, we will be moving further out of our emotional centres and into our human brain.


This is bad for feeling the music and reaching that zone where movement just flows.


It’s also bad for staying on the right timing – brains love rhythm and pattern, and will fall in with external rhythms naturally and of their own accord. Think how your foot taps naturally to that song you hate without you even trying!


So, if you are struggling with a particular track, chances are it’s because your brain doesn’t have enough prior experience of those particular sounds in order to predict what’s likely to happen next.


The other reason may be that in a busy Salsa club there is a lot of noise on top of what the DJ is playing. You may be trying to have a conversation with your partner as well as dance. Your brain has to filter out the most important sounds and ignore the irrelevant ones…this is of course harder in a noisy environment and when multi-tasking.


Your brain is pretty good at taking care of finding a rhythm when you relax and stop trying so hard.


And there’s simply no substitute for immersing yourself in as much Salsa music as possible.
The more tracks you know, the better you’ll hear the music!